An innovative virtual reality-based test for early detection of cognitive impairment in community dwelling older adults

Frank Lai, Catherine Darling, Eddie Hai, Catherine Chan

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting Abstractpeer-review


Cognitive screening of memory performance is an essential component to all current standard screening for dementia in older adults. Older adults tend to avoid health care and medical evaluations. Often, the affected individuals and their relatives only seek help when confronted with very pressing needs for management, especially when cognitive decline progresses into its latter stages. As a result, the deployment of relevant services is often delayed and their efficacy is substantially reduced, leading to unnecessary suffering for both older adults and their caregivers. In mitigating these problems, we aim to use a low-cost, efficient and older-adults-friendly virtual reality-based working memory test (VRWMT) for the screening of older adults in the community. VRWMT provides an immersive experience that approximates real-life situations in a way that traditional pencil-and paper tests, structured interviews or repetitive sterile psychological assessments are unable to. VRWMT is specifically designed to assess rapid spatial working memory – a hippocampus-dependent memory and a common deficit in all neurocognitive disorder subtypes. Our pilot study on 20 subjects shows that this screening is feasible for use in the evaluation of older adults. Similar task analogues have been shown to be sensitive in the detection of hippocampal damage and of age-related decline. In our pilot study, a clear agedependency was obtained when healthy participants across all ages are considered. Our international team members identified similar underlying neuropsychological sensitivity and specificity. Our preliminary assessment strongly suggests that this task warrants further investigation at a wider scale in the community.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberP07
Pages (from-to)49-50
Number of pages2
JournalBritish Journal of Occupational Therapy
Issue number1 Suppl, August 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2023
EventRoyal College of Occupational Therapy 2023 Annual Conference : RCOT 2023 Annual Conference - London, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 14 Jun 202315 Jun 2023

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